The first person we meet in Bravo’s new rich-white-ladies-fighting show Eat Drink Love is Waylynn. Waylynn is a pastry chef who has a store where she sells what she calls “fonuts.”
Point the first: There’s supposed to be a mark indicating it’s a long “o,” but I’m leaving it out for the sake of all of our dignity, because when you have to put pronunciation symbols directly in the name of your fonut shop, perhaps you should have called it something else, especially since “fonut,” derived from “faux donut,” makes it sound like they’re made from recycled bicycle tires, when in fact they’re just baked/steamed instead of fried, which means they are not faux anything. They are what the rest of us call “cake.”
Point the second: while attending press tour, I returned to my hotel room one afternoon to find that Bravo had delivered, along with the Eat Drink Love screener, two fonuts, one strawberry and one chocolate. The next day, my fellow critics and I agreed (unanimously, as far as I could tell in my tiny survey sample of two or three people) that the strawberry one was quite good and the chocolate one was regrettable, to the point where we couldn’t agree about what was sprinkled on top of it, other than “something problematic.” And thus did we begin passing around on Twitter a new social nicety: “Do you want my fonuts? You can have them, really.”
Where were we? Oh, right. Fonut Waylynn.
Along with Fonut Waylynn, there are four other well-off white ladies on this show about the L.A. food scene: Brenda Urban, a “culinary publicist”; Jessica Miller, a “culinary marketing specialist”; Kat Odell, a writer for Eater LA; and Nina Clemente, a private chef.
Initially, we are introduced to the women through their careers and their dating lives. Fonut Waylynn gets hit on all the time by dudes who come in and act like they’ve never seen a circle-shaped cake before. But she’s a little reticent, so usually she does her twitchy, eye-rolly, “Uh, time to make the fonuts”-type dance, and she walks away. She just got out of a relationship with “a high-profile chef” they act like they’re not going to name for a while, and then she accidentally maybe lets it slip that okay, you dragged it out of her, it’s Michael Voltaggio from Top Chef. She’s sworn never to date a chef again, but how can she resist the taco-making genius from around the corner who’s sending her flowers with incredibly cheesy notes attached to them? That kind of thing.
Jessica works for the restaurant organization that owns Pink Taco, and I just can’t take her seriously after that. She uses her phone to spy on all the restaurants she oversees with security cameras, and then she goes and yells at people. I honestly doubt this is usually her job, but somehow it seems to be what fascinates Bravo. Jessica: Pink Taco Spy Chief.
It’s not really Publicist Brenda’s fault that when we watch her at work calling people up with pitches, I can only imagine the person on the other end of the line making a “yap yap yap” motion with one hand, but I bet they do. Her first big accomplishment we see is that she got a restaurant she represents mentioned in a story about oysters. She’s also trying to get the same establishment into a Sexy Hotel Restaurants feature in Details. That’s probably worth a zillion dollars and everything, but as she says it, it does sound a little bit like Ultimate Food Industry Blah-Dee-Blah of the highest order. I mean, somewhere, there are people who say, “We should go to this restaurant I saw in that list of Sexiest Hotel Restaurants in Details,” but I don’t go to dinner with them.
Publicist Brenda has a tense relationship with Writer Kat, since Writer Kat makes her living (according to the show) holding the lives of restaurants in her tiny hand and cackling like Gargamel while deciding whether to crush them. Brenda doesn’t want to be mean or anything, but you know, she says Kat has a reputation involving who she writes about and who she’s having sex with, wink hint ick. (Actually, this entire show could be called Wink Hint Ick. Cut, print.)
Private Chef Nina started out as an artist and then decided that food was her medium, which is why I couldn’t even afford to have her make me a grilled cheese sandwich, I suspect. She started out not really having any training at all, but then she catered a party and happened to bump into a Vanity Fair editor (as you do), and now she’s in high demand to cook dinner for wealthy people with obstreperous toddlers. Or so it appears.
As with the Real Housewives, it’s never clear how many of these women would be socializing with each other if they hadn’t been cast on the same show (or whether any of them have ugly or uncool friends who eat at Olive Garden). They spend a lot of time talking about each other and sharing their stories – when Brenda tells the story of her divorce and gets to the part where she announces she’s leaving her husband, Jessica responds with a thoughtful and supportive “Ew!”
Real Housewife shows never have had anything to do with houses or wives any more than they do with reality: after all, one of the most successful exploiters of the genre, Bethenny Frankel, was single when she was cast. What they have to do with is pouring a bunch of well-off women into a martini shaker, drowning them in tropes about sex and independence, and assuming that when you pour them into a glass with plenty of ice, they’ll taste like distilled Bitch. (That is a word a lot of people don’t particularly like, including me, but to use any other is to deny the fundamental worldview of the show and the cultural waters in which it’s swimming.) These shows are, in fact, among the relatively few places on television where you will see a bunch of women on screen at the same time at all.
There’s going to be plenty more of this before there’s less – it makes sense (cynically) to combine the girlfight show cliché with the foodie show cliché. There’s no reason to believe they’ll run out of women who see this kind of thing as the fastest way to make the fonut the next cronut, or (as someone on the similarly constructed Princesses: Long Island is trying to do) make the Drink Hanky more than just a cloth sack you could make on a Barbie sewing machine that allows you to carry around a wet bag instead of a wet glass.
But honestly, if fighting and gossiping is the kind of thing that floats your boat, you could save a lot of time by just following the right jerks on Twitter.
Copyright 2013 NPR.